29 January 2011

Adams Landing or CCC?

Along South Birch Road in Tippecanoe Township is a hillside retreat along the Tippecanoe River. Generations have grown up with the stone steps and walled embankment referring to it as "the wall" or the swimming hole.

The area has all of the trademarks of a New Deal project, either by the Civilian Conservation Corps or the Works Progress Administration, but a few facts make it hard to pinpoint if indeed it actually is a New Deal project. First, the property was privately owned. New Deal work was never undertaken on private property, or even non-profit property. In the case of the Izaak Walton League building, the League had to turn the property over to the US Bureau of Fish Hatcheries to have the clubhouse constructed. The second item is that it cannot be found in the listing of Federal Relief work in Marshall County.

Recently research was undertaken on the history of the Argos Izaak Walton League which may shed some light on "the wall". The league was established in 1926. They held fish fries along the Tippecanoe River at a place called "Adams Landing". The league constructed ovens at Adams Landing and it was there that a benefit supper was held to raise funds to purchase the property the League now uses as its home. In the Argos Izaak Walton League Building is a photograph of "the wall", but without a caption. Could the stonework have been created by the League given the popularity of the site as a fishing hole? No one in the area has ever heard of Adams Landing.

Creighton Bros. of Warsaw were the owners of the property until recently when Wythougan Valley Preservation acted as a liaison in the transfer of the property to Pottawatomie Wildlife Park. The stonework is in rough condition, however, the park has already made some stabilization to the wall. We anticipate working with the park in restoring this site because whether or not it is a CCC work, or the work of the Izaak Walton League, it is still an important piece of heritage to the residents of Tippecanoe Twp.

26 January 2011

Wards: the first cookie-cutter?

Wards Headquarters in Chicago

In 1996 I began work on a project that revealed a great deal about the emerging national economy based on chain department stores. The large, two and a half story, downtown building had been covered in sleek aluminum panels during the 1970s. Once the panels were removed and the gleaming white terra cotta facade was exposed, one certainly wondered why cover the building and do so much damage to the building?

But, it is what we Americans do to try to modernize and keep up with the Joneses (what is the plural of Jones?). So began the restoration saga of this building, aided by the original blueprints created for Montgomery Wards. The Wards corporation was begun by Aaron Montgomery Wards in 1872 as a catalog store, meaning you could order things through the catalog that you may view at local catalog outlets. But you couldn't buy those items on display.

1929 Wards Store in Plymouth

That all changed when one gentleman walked into a Wards catalog store in downtown Plymouth, Indiana in 1926. As the story goes, the man broke a tool and desperately needed to replace it immediately. He persuaded the manager of the catalog store to sell him the tool that day, and the rest, well, is history. The popularity made the Plymouth store the first retail store for Montgomery Wards, headquartered out of Chicago.

Restoring the Spirit of Progress

By 1928, only two years later, Wards had opened 244 stores. By 1929 that number had grown to 531-one of which was a new gleaming store in Plymouth opened just days before the stock market crash. Wards adopted a model for its many stores; these were largely constructed in white terra cotta, some with brown brick, and terra cotta details. A few things are dead give-aways of these stores, should you be on the hunt.

Wards Store Restored, 1997

Typically the stores have large upper story windows in either two or three bays; the window openings are curved in the upper corners. The stores also often had terra cotta urns of flowers on piers extending above the parapet. But the primary indicator, though not found on all Wards buildings, is the depiction of the "Spirit of Progress" and sometimes called the "Lady of Industry" that was inspired by the 1893 Chicago Exposition. In 1929 Wards had a large sculpture of the Spirit commissioned (17' tall) and placed on a four story tower it added to its Chicago headquarters on the Chicago River. Unfortunately the Plymouth store's Spirit had its top half broken off to add the modernizing metal panels. We were able to recreate the top perfectly.

A Wards Store in Texas

This all came back to me when my friend at Down the Road sent me a flicker page with a collection of Wards buildings around the country. It is fantastic to see so many in good condition and repurposed. Do you have one?


25 January 2011

South Bend, dying?

An article in Newsweek Magazine recently concluded that South Bend, Indiana is one of 10 "dying" cities in the nation. They joined other Midwestern cities like Detroit and Grand Rapids in the listing, and were the only city in Indiana that made the list.

The listing came from two exclusive criteria of loss in population and a decrease in the 20s-30s population and an increase in its senior population. Frankly, I don't know what city in Indiana doesn't have the same issue, except for Indianapolis. This assumes you take one thing into consideration and that is the increase in the Latino population in virtually every small city across the Hoosier state. But does that count?

Indianapolis is not only the governmental capital of our state, but it is also the cultural and economic center of the state as well. It is the place young people move to, if they don't move out of Indiana. Young people move to the capital for the employment opportunities that exist, but also because of the venues for entertainment and recreation. Indianapolis capitalizes on quality of life opportunities and the remaining state scrambles to keep their lights on....because the taxpayers demand it. We need to come to grips with the fact that all of our cities are dying and what can be termed fiscal prudence on one hand can become a race to the bottom as we swallow ourselves in backward thinking.

I feel for South Bend. And quite frankly, all our small towns can identify more with them than we can with Indianapolis and that should be alarming. If you were to remove the growing Latino population found in each of our small cities, our numbers would likely mirror those of South Bend's. We are the ones suffering from brain drain, we are the ones suffering from a lack of employment opportunities, we are the ones unable or unwilling to even consider quality of life issues in our communities, and we are the ones with an aging population grasping onto power even as we wonder why there is a lack of engagement by a younger public. Just my thoughts.

21 January 2011

the way the West won my heart

Worn out after a trip to Disney Land

As a little kid, our family vacations never went south, north, or east. The car or van would always head west. I remember making several treks out west as a little tike. I remember the long drives that coloring books and comic books would have to help pass. We went to California twice, visiting the Grand Canyon and driving part of Route 66 along the way. In California we went to Disney Land, there was no Disney World yet, stopped by my great Aunt Goldie’s house in Oceanside (my Grandpa Garner’s aunt) and we went to Yosemite National Park. These trips would take us back through Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park.
Riding Methuselah at Reptile Gardens, at 3 years old

It was Yellowstone that our family most visited. We went once to Glacier and to Elkhorn, a ghost town in Montana, but our time in Yellowstone was most memorable. Looking for animals, seeing Old Faithful and the lodge, and taking the annual picture in front of the Yellowstone Falls, these were the things that made the trips memorable. And so was the long, long drives through eastern Wyoming where we looked for “bottoms up” or antelope, and found some respite from the drive at Wall Drug and Reptile Gardens. I remember leaving for the big trip from the truck stop, telling Grandpa and Grandma good bye, then driving nearly all night before stopping at a rest stop to sleep through the night. I thought that was so cool.

Methuselah doesn't give rides today....he looks a little worn out eh? That's my son, 35 years later.

Health Repeal and an OMG moment

Health Care Repeal Bill (why do I want to pronouce that "beal" with repeal?"):

No one saw this coming, right? There may have been several good inclusions to the President's Health Care Bill, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn't have the beneficial effect of lowering health insurance premiums. It did provide the inability for health insurance companies to deny coverage to children-something we have experienced personally, but in the grand scheme of things, those children could get covered under the Medicare saftey net. Not that I would want to take my chances with that.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again....the only real fix to the high cost of health insurance premiums and health care costs is if we do away with employer provided health insurance. It creates an environment in which insurance costs can quickly rise for businesses due to one employee's health issues and makes independant insurance coverage an almost impossible expense because there is no "pool" in which costs are spread. Your employer doesn't pay for your auto insurance does he? Get it out of the workplace and watch what that will do for stimulating the economy. Health insurance premiums are the biggest drag on business today-surely smart conservatives understand this!

As I was listening to the debate over the repeal bill something clicked with me today that shamefully I had never considered. The discussion was around the republicans' counter-proposal and its inclusion of language prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortions; the counter argument was made that the President's bill put more restrictions on abortions because those wanting to have the procedure would have to take out a separate insurance policy.....at which time the reporter said that roughly 87% of health insurance companies cover abortion procedures.

Wait a minute.....I have Anthem BCBS, one of the largest insurance companies in the country and virtually holding a monopoly in Indiana. Do they cover abortions? So, if they do, then my exorbitant premiums I am paying each month are no doubt going to pay for abortions? My gosh, do you realize this is 10x worse than taxpayer-funded abortions? Not that I am making an argument for federal funding of abortions, but IF tax dollars were going to abortions (which they are not) then as a percentage of what I pay into that may equal 1/1000 of a percent, if that? Compare that to what I pay in in health insurance premiums-the percentage would be much higher because of the nature of it only covering health costs (and the fact I pay more than double for health insurance than I do in taxes!)-so what are we talking here, maybe a full 1%? Ask my wife, I already have huge issues with allowing our money to be used in stocks or other investment methods, or spent at WalMart, because of some pretty conservative beliefs running contrary to the harm it could do. Crap-my insurance premiums are funding abortions! And I already believe Anthem is the devil! The unfortunate thing is that we're stuck with Anthem because of insurance companies' ability to deny coverage to children.

That was a rude awakening for a Friday morning. Makes me wonder why Christians and other pro-life groups aren't out picketing in front of insurance offices.

17 January 2011

the gang & young vocals

The gang at LaPaz

We weren’t jocks-that’s for sure. In fact, I and another buddy were usually the last picked for teams in gym. But I don’t know that we were the geeks either, but in elementary school we had a good gang that often found us at each others’ houses on Friday nights. The gang was Greg, Scott (Mike), Jeff N., Russell, Jeff S., sometimes Ricky, and me. We got together and watched movies and played Star Wars or war outside. There was a falling out our 6th Grade year-I’m not sure why that was, but I do remember being punched by Scott. Scott later came to my defense when I was cornered by a guy we called "watermelon head" because his head was way too large for his body-kids are cruel-I know.

But I also recall my buddies abandoning me when I became trapped in the partially subgrade bathroom by a guy named Dino. Dino was in my class but had obviously flunked a few times given that we were 5th graders and he had a mustache. Dino asked a pretty elementary question during sex education to which I made a smart comment, then told all the girls. Dino came for blood as I cowered in one of the stalls. I remained friends with Jeff S., with whom I would switch to a private school, and Scott. Jeff would become my best man, and I, his. Unfortunately Scott and I drifted apart toward the end of high school, though I could always count on him to want to camp out in our woods.

that's me singing on the right

Elementary music programs

In at least two school programs the music teacher pegged me to be one of the leading vocalist. If there were other programs I participated in, I don’t recall, but I do know that I was one of the children in an elementary school version of “The Sound of Music” and I sang opposite Jill in a 4-H inspired program. I believe we were supposed to be two lovers stuck at the top of the Ferris wheel as we sang “I’m at the top of the world, lookin’ down at creation…”. Then my voice changed and all hope of my rock star career was dashed as my perfect tenor went into a squeaky bass.

16 January 2011

LaPaz Elementary

Kids today simply don’t know the fun of attending a 19th century, or early 20th century for that matter, school building. LaPaz Elementary was the coolest. The earliest part of the building was constructed in the late 1800’s and featured a large tower we were all certain held the remains of troublesome students or ghosts of old teachers. It also featured a stone basement in which we had our art class, and a rickety wood staircase that led to the basement that was condemned my 6th grade year. A newer portion of the building had the classic early 20th century gymnasium with a raised stage and wood bleachers. Connected to that was a large garage area used for storage and for showing films. For some reason one film has stuck with me. It was a documentary of how donuts were made and featured a conveyor type mass production system that inspired me to go home and create on paper a number of other production lines. At the rear of the garage/movie theater was access to a basement under the main part of the building. This is where the older kids went for tornado drills. I remember my older sister telling me that the area frequently flooded, was filled with rats, and was thought to extend as a tunnel clear beneath U.S. 31. While the rats may have existed, I doubt the other stories were true. The other truly interesting thing about our elementary school was the newest portion of the building, constructed during the 1950s I presume, had its second floor connected to the second floor of the old part of the school by means of an elevated and enclosed “catwalk”. I do believe that this was condemned also in my last year there. I remember as we would go single file from one building to the other, we would all jump and stomp hoping that the catwalk would bounce. In our minds anyway, it did. What would have happened had we gone hurdling to the ground below, I’m not sure.

This is a picture of the school "tying yellow ribbons round the old" mulberry tree in the front lawn of the school, in hope for the release of the hostages in Iran

Life as an elementary student of course was exciting. Kindergarten-show and tell. First grade-I had a teacher both my dad and grandmother had, Mrs. Tornquist, who sent me to the Principal’s office for taking a whiz outside. I’ve never forgiven the student who told on me. Mrs. Tornquist-in her tight polyester pants with the old lady underwear showing on the back side-was never endeared to me. Second grade-I broke my arm just before school started and had to have an student assistant-Kim. I also had “fat” as a spelling word and promptly used my teacher’s name in the sentence “Mrs. so-n-so is fat”. I think my broken arm provided the grace I needed. Third grade-I became friends with Jeff, a guy who ended up being the best man in my wedding, and I in his, and am still friends with today. Together we built hangars and airplanes out of paper and pencils. Fourth grade-rather unremarkable. Fifth grade-a split class with a teacher I did not get along with, but it was in that grade I embraced geography and history, which haunts me to this day. Sixth grade-I remember holding a mock presidential debate and since no one else would be on President Carter’s panel I volunteered.

I sure miss the old school. It truly was full of memories for generations of folks in our community.

Life Inventory

Several weeks ago I started jotting down item after item in a list into a leather bound sketchbook I keep in the coffee table. My wife asked what I was doing.

"Writing my memoirs."

She gave me a sorta disturbed look. And I said "at the end of every great political career, a leader writes his memoirs."

At this she rolled her eyes, smiled, and said I love you....but it was in that, you know, sarcastic tone.

So, Hoosier Happenings is the beneficiary of my "memoirs", which is really just a collection of a bunch of stuff I can still recall. I plan to roll out the series soon....so be watching for "Growing up Red, White and Blue".

14 January 2011

can't beat the view

Last Sunday morning we were treated to quite a sunrise over the snowy landscape across the front pasture. It's times like these that make me forget all about city livin'.

12 January 2011

Clinton & Tipton Counties

Indiana boasts some pretty fabulous courthouses. This past fall found me wandering through both Frankfort in Clinton County and Tipton in Tipton County for separate meetings, and the opportunity presented itself to take a spin around the courthouse squares in these side by side counties.

I met with an individual regarding the Michigan Road in his office in the Clinton County Courthouse. This allowed me the opportunity to climb the great winding staircases of this building. When climbing to the main level and staring up into the rotunda a few employees gave me strange looks to which I said...."I'm just admiring the architecture". They smiled and we both went about our business. I met an old friend for coffee at a coffee shop on the square and we sat outside in view of the building while we caught up on old times. The Clinton County Courthouse was built from Indiana limestone between 1882-84 and was designed by noted Indiana architect George Bunting. Bunting also designed courthouses in Johnson and Madison Counties. For its time the Clinton County Courthouse was an expensive undertaking, nearly three and four times the cost of other courthouses being built in similar sized counties!

The Tipton Courthouse and I go back to 1998 when I spent time in the community on another project. We learned quickly in architecture school that if you really wanted to get into the guts of a building for a tour, tell them you're an architect, or architecture student, and it provides all kinds of backstage passes. So I managed to tour the Tipton County Courthouse and climbed all the way to the top of its clock tower to view the surrounding, very flat, farmland from little windows near the top of the tower that terminates almost 200' above the ground below. The Tipton County Courthouse was constructed between 1893-94 of sandstone and designed by architect Adolf Scherrer. Scherrer took over for Edwin May in overseeing the construction of the new state capitol building in 1880; a project that lasted until 1888.

The 92 Magnificent Indiana Courthouses by Jon Dilts is a great book for anyone interested in our state's courthouses.

11 January 2011

life in the cross hairs

Since Sunday morning when I first became aware of the shootings in Tuscan I have, like a number of Americans, tried to separate emotion from evidence in the situation. And it seems as quickly as I am willing to concede that Laughner was a disturbed individual regardless of gun laws and regardless of the intensity of political debate, those whom I am making concessions for make outrageous remarks that make me feel like I want to throw up.

I think most telling of the environment in which we are now raising the next generation of Americans, isn't necessarily the shootings but it is how those who are calling for more civil dialogue are the ones being villainized.

I debated in my own mind if I should post anything about the shootings because I didn't want to participate in the flurry, or in an uncivil debate, but then I realized that either I am the minority or part of a silent majority that must to speak up about this issue.

Now, I am not of the belief that Laughner's actions are wholly the responsibility of loose gun laws or violence-laced dialogue by radio show hosts or politicians......but I do believe two things are very clear 1) this man should by no means have had a gun legally-I don't know how anyone could argue the contrary and 2) weak-minded and disturbed people would be prone to personalize rhetorical attacks and lash out at who they feel are threatening them.

I think its just "swell" that our congressmen are saying how we need to tone down the rhetoric. But are they willing to tell Limbaugh and Beck to shut up? NO WAY....their audiences are their constituents, and hosts take great pride in knowing that they can sway elections with their words. I am a firm believer in the freedom of speech, but there is no longer any personal responsibility or self-control when it comes to what is dripping out of the mouths of these people. Rush's statements yesterday literally made me sick to my stomach.....he was engendering fear in his audience by saying that because people like Sheriff Dupnik, who some right-wingers are calling to resign, say that the Nation needs to do "soul searching" in our discourse, is a step toward outlawing statements that challenge Democratic positions. I said two days ago, when the question was raised if this would calm the political climate, that I thought in fact it would only turn up the heat.....and I think I'm being proven right.

While I believe that we should all act with ethics, I want to challenge fellow Christians with these next statements. I know many of you listen to these guys-like Limbaugh and Beck. I want you to listen with new ears; I challenge you to make some spiritual discernment if what you are feeding your spirit is for building up, or tearing down.....is it Christ-like? I'm not saying that everything these guys stand for is wrong, but you also need to judge what that is doing to your spiritual life, and how is it contributing to how you interact with or view others. If you are somehow equating what is being said with some form of spiritual superiority-it's time you understand these guys are feeding off of you....and making a heck of a lot of money doing so. They are not somehow saviours of our democracy-they are out to make a buck off of the most rage-inspired speech they can come up with. How on earth does that align with Christ's teachings? And I think that it is important to note here that I once was an avid Rush listener.....but I matured both intellectually and spiritually. The only "cross hairs" we should be viewing people through is the cross.

I fear for the Nation that we are becoming. I know that while I served my community I was on the receiving end of a lot of personal attacks and conspirorist dialogue....even being called a fascist myself because I thought we should have minimal housing standards like electricity and working plumbing. As a Nation are we truly this ignorant, that we cannot see what is happening? If so, God help our children because bedlam surely follows.

08 January 2011

this wild life.....

I just wanted to share a few pictures of our wild life here on the Hill. The doe below was literally 20 feet from our kitchen window and hung out there well into our morning. The bottom shot is of a small flock of bluebirds that feasted on the berries of the large cedar trees in front of the house.

06 January 2011

through the mud

Would you crawl on your hands and knees through mud and manure? What if it meant being stepped on and kicked along the way? What if you barely had any life in your bones?

Sunday's sermon got me thinking a little. The title was "resolve" playing off the new year's resolutions theme, but the word that left an impression was "effort". This only made a slight impression on my brain, but the next day I caught a short clip about the woman who reached out and touched Christ's garment and how she likely was crawling to do so. All of a sudden the thought of putting forth an effort to grow in my faith took on a whole new meaning.

How do you imagine the woman who had faith that she would be healed if she only touched the hem of Christ's robe? Do you imagine her simply pushing her way through a crowd? That's how I thought of her until recently. But the probable reality is that being weakened from a life-long ailment, she crawled to Christ. The reality is that Christ was surrounded by a pressing mob who would have had the woman underfoot. The reality is that the streets were strewn with manure from cattle and horses and sewage being emptied onto the streets from homes. The reality is that this was no simple squeezing her way through people to extend her hand; this was desperation, pain, and strain to reach the hem. Now, THAT'S FAITH!

Too often the effort in growing in our faith is made to seem clinical. It's a three step process of reading our Bible, praying, and surrounding ourselves with other Christians. To be frankly honest-none of those compare to the effort the woman showed. Oh sure, those are all good things but how much does it really make you grow in your faith? I think that growth happens in the ugliness of life....the tough times......the times we're in the mud and getting kicked. The times that the crowd, maybe even the Christian crowd (for they too wanted to be around Christ), is preventing us from reaching Christ.

The stranger fact is that this woman PUT HERSELF THROUGH IT! It's not as though she was plunged into the mire-she chose to crawl through it. And THAT is what made me stop and think about my own life. It's not as though I haven't had a few tough times here and there which have resulted in personal growth-but I never chose those times, they were thrust upon me. I wrote a few posts back that I felt that God and I were in a bit of a stale-mate, that one of us were in check. The fact of the matter is that right now, I'm not willing to crawl through the muck. I want to touch the hem, but can't find the steam to do so. If it were only as simple as squeezing my way through the crowd, I might put forth the effort......but seriously God, you want me to do more than that? More than read my Bible and pray?

I guess it's time to get dirty....just when I thought I was done with that.

04 January 2011

Modern Conveniences

It says a lot about what to expect in the coming year of blogging when the first post of the new year is about toilets.

When we bought the farm a year ago I was intrigued by the little outhouse in the backyard. I can't say that I always wanted a farm with an outhouse-I'm not that nuts. But it was a nice relic of by-gone days and certainly added to the rural charm. And I figured....it may even come in handy.

So, though the little building was in excellent shape already, I set out to complete minor restoration this summer that resulted in a fresh coat of paint and securing the metal roof. A friend saw the building and said "that's a WPA toilet". Well, I have heard of these, and know of one other in the county. She got down on her knees in the privy and pointed out the stamped mark on the concrete base. Sure enough she said...."a WPA".

The New Deal encouraged things other than public building construction, it also encouraged through the offering of labor, improved rural sanitation via a new outhouse. The WPA had teams of men who would go out into rural areas and build the standard, government approved, privy. The most intriguing story concerning this I found at this link: http://www.eagleplume.com/Outhouse.htm It gives an account of how the WPA Privy came to be the most widely recognized outhouse form all due to some frank nagging to FDR.

So, at roughly 80 years of age, this little building has a warmer place in my heart today than it did a year ago. I may even re-electrify it....yep, that's right, the little building has a small wire and insulator attached to the side indicating that indeed, even at night, one could relieve themselves in the comfort of an improved and lighted, modern privy.